Thursday, April 28, 2011

Megapost! Slurpees and Murder Record Club: Basti Basti Khak Uri Hai (plus: iRiffs! CDC Radio! Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs Begins Tonight! And More!)

Mine is a blogging style that lends itself not to short rapid-fire posts, but to extended absences and then a terrifying extended deluge of content all at once. It's like the old adage about buses: none for ages and then one finally shows up but it's still not the one you need, it's going to the Airport or something, so you have to wait downtown next to the same panhandler for another twenty minutes and he checks back with you another two or three times just in case you've picked up any more change since the last time he asked. App... apparently that adage is different in other cities?

Tonight's entry into the Slurpees and Murder Record Club is an exotic, mysterious album for you fine folks to puzzle over, but -- as is usually the case -- I've first got some self-aggrandizement and some sports chatter to attend to. So let's get started!

I've mentioned the iRiffs concept elsewhere previously, but the gist of it is a more crowdsourced Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (spearheaded and hosted by MST3K alum, no less). But what if I told you that I and other fine gentlemen had recorded the audio for one such project a few years ago, based around the craptastic animated (haphazardly animated, but animated) short "Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins", and that this project was just recently unearthed and finished to commemorate the recent release of Mortal Kombat 9?

Now how much would you pay? Nothing! It's free! (Headphones are strongly recommended, to best catch the dialogue setups for the ensuing gags.) But you're certainly more than welcome to throw a dollar at it if the urge seizes you; I'd have to doublecheck with my co-conspirators, but I'm willing to presume that all of us would be cool with that.

I know what you're thinking: "James, you handsome devil, while I certainly appreciate fourty minutes' worth of quality free content, may I have more?" Well, you may! Local video gaming collective Chip Damage has started up a brand new podcast series, "Chip Damage Control" -- "CDC Radio" for short, because hey, doesn't that work out nicely -- and I've taken up the mic as one of the show co-hosts, because I like video games and I like talking. (You may have previously noticed both of these points.)

The debut episode of Chip Damage Control is now available for your enjoyment; the sound quality and show layout are super rough thus far, as you can tell, but hey, first episode. We'll get this yet! There is also some, shall we say, colourful language involved in this show, but not overwhelmingly so -- and really, if you have played your fair share of the modern video games, you are probably already aware that salty language often results. If nothing else, this episode is entirely recommended for its story of the shenanigans at the Play 'n' Trade Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament; give it a listen!

You may also note from the show that I've quite cheerfully given myself the nickname "The Voice of Winnipeg", which may seem a tad inflated -- and it totally is, that's the whole point -- but I figured, hey, live a little. I am a loud dude whose previous contributions to the organization include event announcements, boxing-style player introductions and ongoing play-by-play commentary on live streams of major events, and now I am also helping with (what will shortly be established as) a weekly hour-long podcast. (It's also my SRK tag now, if you're into fighting games.) It's a good gimmick, and I intend to play it to the hilt; the open knowledge that I am less influencial or important than my own cat is, I should think, part of the gag.

Anyway! We're set to record the second episode tomorrow night, so I'll let you guys know when it's available for public consumption. Let me just think for a second, is there any other content I'm forgetting to mention? Uptown and WIPs you already know about, you can get plenty of federal election coverage all over the place, I actively think less of anybody who wants to talk about the Royal Wedding... oh! Hockey! Right! Okay, predictions for round two, let's go.

I got six of eight last round, neither outstanding nor too shabby, but let's see if my accuracy increases or decreases when I devote significantly less time to explaining my picks than I did last round. (Be honest, none of y'all read all that last post anyway.) Here goes nothing:

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Holy crow, good for Tampa! I mean, okay, they were still only up against the post-Crisis Penguins, but I'll be the first to admit that I was underestimating their collective jam. Old Man Roloson rocking the show at fourty-one is impressive and awesome, St. Louis is still just a really likeable l'il dude, Lecavalier... kind of looks like an escaped convict these days but can still go, and Yzerman way up in the executive boxes just seems to make everything better.

But, as much as I expect Washington to dry up and die like old Play-Doh any second now, this still seems too comparatively early for them to choke it all away. They looked decently impressive against the Rangers, and if their goalie(s) can hold strong enough to give their firepower time to kick in, it'll probably go very badly for the Bolts. Certainly the Caps have more offensive capability than the remains of the Penguins seemed to, and Pittsburgh still almost won that series. Tampa Bay will put up a valient effort, but I expect this is as far as they're going -- and I don't expect this series to really be a thrill-ride, but it certainly won't be the most boring match this round.

What I'd Want: Washington in five. Like I said, I like a lot of the guys in Tampa Bay, but I don't like them enough that I want to watch the 1-3-1 formation for another three rounds.
What I'll Guess: Washington in six.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins

Can the Flyers survive their own wacky three-headed chimera of wildly incompetent goaltending to overcome a solid but largely uninspiring team with outstanding goaltending and hilariously awful special teams? Well, they certainly did last round, and the series with Boston shouldn't play out much differently.

To Boston's credit, they eked out a seven-game series victory without scoring even one power play goal, which... has to be a record, I would assume. That can't possibly have happened before. But against a team that can actually score goals, doesn't go away no matter how far behind they fall, and have already shown full competency in whizzing past giant defensemen to crack open normally-impenetrable goalies, this series probably won't be nearly as close as the scores will make it look. (The Buffalo series wasn't, either, as you no doubt noticed during game seven.)

What I'd Want: Philadelphia in six.
What I'll Guess: Philadelphia in seven, because surely giving up three goals at the beginning of every game is bound to bite Philly at least once or twice here and there.

Western Conference

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Ha! The one year I finally give up on the Nashville Predators making it to round two, and they finally make it to round two. That'll show me! Rinne turns out to be just as good as everyone thought he was, and post-rehab Jordan Tootoo is almost playing well enough that you could clone him twenty times and win a Cup with just him.

The television networks are relieved by this matchup, since the presence of Canada's last remaining team will counterbalance Nashville's ratings blackhole, but for actual television viewers this is going to be a staggering letdown. Coming off the epic -- a word I use very sparingly, because the internet has basically ruined it, but as far as first-round NHL playoff series go that one definitely fit the definition -- the epic overtime seventh-game showdown with the Blackhawks, this series between the Canucks and the Predators is going to plod like a caveman in waist-deep mud. Two Vezina-nominated goalies in the same series sounds great at first blush, but then you think it over a bit longer and oh, wait, this is going to blow. Have you ever watched a game between these two teams in the regular season and thought, "boy, this is exciting?"

What I'd Want: Vancouver in six. Get Nashville a bit more home game revenue, lord knows the poor bastards worked for it.
What I'll Guess: Vancouver in six. There will be nine goals total. It will suck.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings

The big story out of the Sharks' previous series was Joe Thornton getting his one playoff goal for the year; the big story out of the Red Wings' previous series was them casually ending the series as soon as possible, without some of their top players in the lineup, and then taking a long string of old-man naps to get ready to obliterate whoever they drew next. So one team is well rested with a long and infurating history of thorough consistency and deep playoff runs, and the other is -- I could sugarcoat or obfuscate this point, but let's just be blunt with it -- the San Jose Sharks in round two.

What I'd Want: San Jose in five, exorcising their playoff demons in front of their home crowd. I WOULD ALSO LIKE A UNICORN, WHICH IS JUST AS LIKELY
What I'll Guess: Detroit in five. The Sharks' top line scores two goals or fewer.

Now, then! Raise your hand if you think this post is already long enough as it is. Do you? WELL, TOO BAD. Because, with all of that business out of the way, it is time for us to proceed to our Slurpees and Murder Record Club selection for the evening:



Mehdi Hassan - Live in Canada (19??)
[bio | no official artist page, not even an unauthorized myspace or any goofy thing like that | here is an explanation of Ghazal so you'll have a better idea of what you're listening to | you couldn't buy this album if you tried, guys, I've checked ]





Understandably, you probably have some questions. "What year was this actually released?" "Live where in Canada?" "Why is the back pretty much just a greyscale version of the front with a tracklist added to the bottom?" These are all valid inquiries, and I have the same simple answer for all of them: I don't know. Couldn't tell you, guys.

Mehdi Hassan is still alive, into his eighties now, and is still beloved across his native Pakistan and around the world as the "King of Ghazal", a music form established around the couplet-based poetic form of the same name. It sounds like a less religious spin on Qawwali, the Sufi devotional music popularized internationally by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, although the two genres overlap in places. If nothing in this paragraph so far has meant anything to you, that's fine, I ain't mad at that. I only ever found out about Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in the first place because he worked with Peter Gabriel. Yes, I am very white.

So what we know about this album is what we can observe: it's a live concert by one of the masters of his given genre, it is really good music, it was imported through and remastered in Winnipeg at some point, and -- again, I say this as a white dude who is admittedly spoiled by the lush production values of later Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan studio albums -- this album could have been mixed way better. The arrangements are based around slight but distinct rhythmic variations on an overarching form, guys, remastering it shouldn't make me have to work to hear 'em.

Mind you, I say this from a modern standpoint, and I'm sure this production was perfectly fine in its era (whenever that era actually was) -- especially for a live album, because back then the only way to get particularly good sound out of a live recording was to make like KISS and just totally cheat. We have an embarrassment of options nowadays, but if this was your only way to hear music like this at the time, it certainly would have been more than satisfactory -- and the novelty would have been part of the appeal, wouldn't it've?

There are two prospective reasons why a Winnipeg record label would have acquired and released this music from a then-mysterious, far-away land: they wanted something that would sell decently well to recent immigrants (folks coming here from South Asia probably weren't big into Harlequin, for example), and/or they wanted something that would sound frickin' amazing when you're stoned out of your gourd. Good reasons both, I should note!

All of our original unanswered questions still stand, though. Why wouldn't you just put the production year somewhere, anywhere, on your product? Was information on the recording venue too much to ask, or was that not included on the random mystery album that you bought from some import joint up Galinee Bay? "Canada" is a pretty big place -- you couldn't narrow down "Canada" a bit? Why is this "Live in Canada" if it specifically lists Neval Import-Export Ltd. on the back? Was this recorded somewhere around here and being exported elsewhere, rather than imported and then released here? If so, knowing that Pakistan surely has its own bases covered for Mehdi Hassan albums, who would you export this album to? And, of all the possible cover images -- a camel? Live, from an unidentified venue in an undisclosed location in Canada, this camel!

I made some attempts to track down other live recordings by cross-referencing song titles, just in case another live recording happens to also be this recording, but no such luck -- and it seems that some of the song titles listed on this album turn out now to have been spelled incorrectly, or truncated, or who knows what. I'm sure I could act indignant about that, but nah, I can see how that would have been a problem.

Imagine you're a hard-done-by young sir or madam interning at a Winnipeg record label in, let's say, the late 1970s; it's 3:00 PM on a Friday afternoon, you're eagerly counting away the minutes, you've got your weekend plans all set, and then this Post-It arrives on your desk atop the latest import tape the boss got in:



Remember, we're figuring for the sake of argument that this is somewhere around the late 1970s, so there's a strong chance that nobody in the building even speaks French past a third-grade level. And some under- or unpaid underling gets tasked with puzzling out Urdu? C'mon, man. We're lucky we got what we did, because things could have turned out a lot worse; the fourth track is listed here as "Ranjish Hee Sahi" and listed elsewhere by more comprehensive Pakistani sources as "Ranjish Hi Sahi Dil Hi Dukhaane Ke Liye Aa", which, I mean, that's good enough.

I did find out that "Gulon Main Rang Bharai" (some sources list "Bhare" and a couple list "Bharey" -- I don't know) is apparently one of Hassan's megahit songs from the movie "Farangi", a 1964 Pakistani film credited as a runaway Lollywood success and a big break for everybody involved. And Lollywood was the Pakistani equivalent of Bollywood, peaking in the 1960s when all Indian films were banned from Pakistan and declining for decades afterwards with the advent of VCR piracy, the Islamisation of the country following Zia-ul-Haq's coup, and the failed introduction of softcore porn into the genre. You can't tell me you've never learned anything from reading this blog, I tell you what!

That'll do it for tonight's entry, I think; I'm flirting with the prospect of reopening an old blog feature shortly, so stay tuned and we'll see what turns up yet.

1 comment:

Fat Arse said...

James,

Speaking from vantage point of one who has kinda been there Re: reasons one may have acquired an album such as this at a particular time, space, & place in their lives with lava lamp at the ready - I would venture your 2nd guess: "...or they wanted something that would sound frickin' amazing when you're stoned out of your gourd." Is pretty much on the money!